One of the few problems I have with Twitter is that it’s usually labelled as a social networking tool. If social networking is its primary function, Twitter is fantastically lousy at it: you can’t leave comments on tweets, and replies to friends show up on the lists of other people’s feeds. It’s fairly impossible to have any sort of conversation with someone on Twitter. With a limit of one hundred and forty characters, including spaces, it excels only at quick hits – proclamations – declarative statements with perhaps room with a link for further information. If social networking implies having a conversation with other people, Twitter is the loud guy on the bus with a megaphone.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its uses.
For example, Twitter has really found its niche in the area of breaking news. News and media organizations have embraced Twitter, using it as a method of getting information out quickly. Icelandic volcano blocks air traffic over half a continent? Comic book movie breaks box offics records on opening week? Internationally known starlet gets busted for drugs at LAX? Twitter is flipping ideal for this sort of thing. A short statement, followed by a link for more info, as I said before, is ideal for breaking news.
Libraries can tap into this and use Twitter for this sort of purpose. If you’re looking to see what books people are reading over the weekend or if you want suggestions from the public on what programs they want – a conversation, in other words – use Facebook and its comments. But for getting the word out on library closings due to weather, or new author alerts, or a upcoming program you want your patrons to be aware of – you need the guy with a bullhorn.